###Let me introduce myself. I’m not an entrepreneur.

  • I’m risk averse.
  • I like stability.

I took one of those personality tests one time and it said my primary motivating characteristic was the need to be “safe and secure”.

So, in the span of 9 months this year, I got married and moved into a new house my wife and I bought. That’s more change in 12 months than I’ve had in the last ten years. So what did I decide to do?

Quit my job at IBM and join an early stage startup.

I realize that sounds out of character, particularly from someone who spent the last twelve-plus years of his career at one of the largest technology firms in the world. But this is actually my second go-round in the startup world. Fifteen years ago, I dropped everything (a stable job in DC, a nice apartment in the suburbs, my family, and my friends) and moved to San Francisco to join a then stealth-mode startup called The Ideal Project (imagine trying to explain that to people inside the Beltway). I’ve described what transpired as another trip through B-school, with a tiny Pacific Heights apartment and an industrial SoMa office serving as the classroom. What I learned about myself, business, and other people in those twelve months more than made up for the thousands I spent in broken leases and California taxes. The Ideal Project turned out to be a good idea at the wrong time, but it did not lessen my desire to do it again…someday.

That day came in late 2014, when I started discussing the possibility of joining a new startup, 540 (much closer to home this time). When I made the leap, the only question in my mind was how I would use my experience from Ideal to 540’s benefit.

540 isn’t brand-spanking new, having some established business and strong relationships in the DC tech community. Our team has been laser-focused on building a reputation for innovation, and being known as a company that gets things done. When I met the team, I was impressed with their knowledge, passion, and desire to help the Government innovate…like a startup.

I spent my first week meeting one-on-one with the team, hearing from each person what they thought 540 was, and wasn’t. I heard themes and consistent messages, but there was still an element of chaos in terms of our identity. At the end of my fact-finding mission, I took what I learned and put my best management consulting spin on a strategy for 540 to grow. It wasn’t rocket science, but for them team it was good to see our objectives and plans written down. Organization from chaos, right? A clear strategic direction for our future?

Well, not exactly. The discussions spawned a new round of brainstorming and creative thinking that is still going on. Our team is hashing out new ideas every day around products, marketing, and branding. The energy here is palpable and intoxicating. We’re pushing ourselves in so many directions, it’s borderline…. well, chaotic. But we’re chaotic in a good way….. like a startup.

540 has the energy that I’ve been seeking since my days with Ideal, and finding it now, at this stage in my career, has been refreshing. Our energy is contagious, and we’re ready to spread that to our friends in Government. We want our Government to think, operate, and innovate…like a startup.